Dictator charged with murder

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The Independent Online
FOR WHAT must be the first time in history, a military dictator is standing trial for murder while still in power.

No less remarkable, Brigadier Oupa Gqozo, the leader of the purportedly independent black 'homeland' of Ciskei, was fighting in court yesterday to prove that he should not be tried at all on the basis that 'the king can do no wrong'.

Brig Gqozo, who came to power in a coup in March 1990, has been charged with the murder of a political opponent. At the start of the trial in Bisho, the Ciskei capital, on Tuesday, counsel for Brig Gqozo cited 'common law principles established in English law whereby a head of state cannot be prosecuted' to argue that the charges against his client should be thrown out. It was not possible, counsel continued, 'to prosecute a king in his own court because he would be prosecuting himself'.

Responding yesterday, the prosecutor said he struggled to see the connection between Westminster in England and Bisho in Ciskei - a point which Brig Gqozo's lawyers will seek to dispute when the trial resumes this morning. The prosecutor also noted that it was difficult to establish a valid analogy between the brigadier and the British monarch.

Ciskei was an invention of the apartheid engineers in the days when they imagined they could 'unblacken' South Africa by evicting blacks from the cities and dumping them in tribally demarcated 'homelands'. Ciskei's sovereignty is recognised only by Pretoria, which pays all its bills.

The African National Congress calls Brig Gqozo the 'Butcher of Bisho' because last year his soldiers killed 27 ANC demonstrators.